How Much Is Too Much?

As #SuterWatch clears Day 3 without any answers, seemingly more questions have begun to arise around the financial factors weighing on the 27 year-old defenseman. We now know that both Detroit and Minnesota sent representatives to Suter Farms in Madison, WI today, and the report from Helene St. James is that the Wings elevated their offer to $90 million over 13 years – a cap hit of roughly $6.9 million per season. At first blush, I thought that number was a bit low, but it appears it’s a $10 million increase from the Wings opening salvo.

There’s no doubt there’s going to be some big numbers flying around over the next day or so, but it’s doubtful that’s the only thing influencing Suter’s decision. That said, one would hope the Wings are willing to up the ante as much as necessary to secure Suter. Which is where you come in.

Simply: How much is too much for Ryan Suter?

Some will argue that there’s mountain (of cash) too high for landing Suter’s talents, while others may be more pragmatic with an eye towards the future. At any rate, there’s bound to be a plethora of opinions. So as you crack open that first beer of Independence, take a second and let us know in the comments how far your wallet would stretch for Mr. Suter.

Hell, I’ll even get the party started: Anything north of $8.5 million per season, and I’m starting to pucker up.

The floor is yours.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Red Wings sign Nicastro

The Detroit Red Wings have signed their third round pick (91st overall) in the 2008 Draft to a three-year entry-level contract. Former Boston University defenseman Max Nicastro is expected to join the Grand Rapids Griffins for the 2012-13 season following an eventful year for the Thousand Oaks, California native.

If the name rings a non-hockey bell, it’s likely because he was charged with rape in February. He was subsequently thrown off of the Terriers hockey club and eventually withdrawn from Boston University altogether. On June 1st, however, the charges were dropped when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided that they had insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anything other than a consensual act took place. The complainant has maintained that she was sexually assaulted, and Nicastro has maintained that there was no criminal action on his part. With the legal system deciding to drop the case altogether, we’ll never know exactly what happened but no one should expect a professional sports club to punish a man if the State feels that no punishment is warranted.

We had heard rumors during this past season that the Griffins expected the Wings to sign Nicastro, assuming he was acquitted of his charges and was legally allowed to play (meaning, not in jail). It seemed unbelievable at the time, since pro sports teams — and in particular, the Red Wings — seem to distance themselves from those who may bring a “black eye” to the organization. Nicastro isn’t the first player with ties to the Red Wings to have some legal trouble before his debut in Detroit. Brendan Smith and Riley Sheahan both got into some “boys will be boys”-type trouble during their stints in college (though, to be fair, neither was accused of anything even remotely similar to rape), and Todd Bertuzzi’s legal troubles are on-going and in their ninth year. Former Wing Andreas Lilja was also accused of rape prior to his tenure with the club and similarly had his charges dropped due to lack of evidence.

Max Nicastro is a big (6’3, 215), stay-at-home defenseman who, according to assistant general manager Jim Nill, “is physical, can shoot the puck, and is a strong skater.” Sounds like a winning combination for a 22-year-old, and he’ll be able to develop at his own pace in Grand Rapids.

If my understanding of the rules are correct, the Wings didn’t have much choice but to sign Nicastro if they wanted him to play hockey anywhere next season. He was a collegiate player, meaning the Wings had until his senior year ended to sign him to a contract before losing his exclusive rights — and those didn’t expire until August of 2013. Since he was removed from BU’s hockey team, he was ineligible to play for Boston — or any other collegiate club, because the NCAA requires a year in between seasons if a player transfers from one school to another. He’s too old to join any of the junior league, and he couldn’t play for any professional club (including the Griffins or Walleye) since the Wings owned his exclusive professional rights, though he could be assigned to them if the contract belonged to the Wings.

Photo Credit: Andre Ringuette, Getty Images

Hudler to Flames, Conner to ‘Yotes

As #Suterwatch rolls along with no end in sight, the Red Wings are now saying goodbye to a couple of players. Our favorite midget, Jiri Hudler, has received the payday he was looking for courtesy of the Calgary Flames, who inked him to a 4 year, $16 million contract this afternoon. The math is pretty easy on this one, as Scuttles will have an average cap hit of $4 million, well north of what the Wings had offered. No real surprise to see Happy head out of town, as the writing was on the wall when Ken Holland brought back Mikael Samuelsson yesterday.

The other bit of news is that Grand Rapids Griffin and part-time Wings call-up Chris Conner has signed on with the Phoenix Coyotes. No word on the financials just yet, but it is a one year, two-way deal, similar to what Conner had with the Wings organization. I know Petrella is pretty bummed about this one, as Conner was one of the workhorses with an engine that never stopped last season, only slowed down by an unfortunate and poorly timed broken wrist.

At any rate, best of luck to Scuttles and Conner with their new teams. Oh, and Calgary? Hide the hookers and blow.

Photo Credit: Faceoff.com

Joey MacDonald requests trade

In light of yesterday’s acquisition of former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, the incumbent number two netminder in Detroit has asked the Red Wings to trade him to a team where he’ll be able to play NHL minutes. Joey MacDonald stepped in very admirably when Jimmy Howard went down with an injury last season (and Ty Conklin proved ineffective), and he’s on a one-way deal this season, meaning he’ll make the same salary if he plays in the NHL or in the AHL.

But it also means is that he’ll have to clear re-entry waivers to be recalled from Grand Rapids, and the Red Wings don’t like to take those kinds of risks since another team can claim MacDonald and the Wings would still be on the hook for half of his salary and cap hit without the use of the player. So it’s unlikely that he’d be recalled all season.

Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.com broke the story this morning via Twitter:

The acquisition of Gustavsson made it clear that the Wings wanted a reliable backup to Howard and they were concerned that MacDonald’s back (bulging disc) wouldn’t be well enough to carry that load, should he be needed for more than a few games. Making matters even stickier is that the Wings have four goaltenders that are slated for Grand Rapids next season: MacDonald, Jordan Pearce, Thomas McCollum, and Petr Mrazek. Pearce is entering the final year of his second deal with the Red Wings and will likely pursue medical school if he can’t make the jump to the NHL (which no one is expecting of him). McCollum is entering the final year of his deal with the Wings and has had a heck of a time even sticking in Grand Rapids (instead, playing bigger minutes in Toledo of the ECHL). Mrazek is turning pro this season and is the best goaltending prospect the Wings have had in a long time (so he belongs in Grand Rapids playing as much as he can).

Hopefully Joey MacDonald and the Red Wings can find a mutually agreeable destination for Joey Mac’s services and we wish him nothing but the best. He’s been a great Red Wing and hope he has a chance to play in the big leagues somewhere in 2012-13. Of course, there’s a chance that he plays himself into the #2 position (again) in training camp and that he doesn’t go anywhere, but the crease is getting a little clogged in both Detroit and Grand Rapids…

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images North America

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2012 Free Agency Primer

This guy will likely be the first announced signing by the Wings at noon on Sunday

It’s like Christmas in July.

On Sunday at noon, the floodgates will open and several hundred NHL players will get richer. If Dennis Wideman’s deal is any indication of the proceedings, you’re about to see a whole buncha crazy numbers thrown around. And we’ll be your home for all things Live Chatty, as we’ll be hosting our third annual Free Agent Day Live Chat.

To put things in a Wings perspective before the festivities unfold, we thought we’d offer a little primer to get everyone on the same page. We all know Detroit will be gunning for Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter, so use the following as a template to see where they’d fit — not only on the 23-man roster, but also against the $70.2M salary cap. Of course, all of this information is widely available on our Chart, which is always accessible by clicking that fancy link at the bottom of the column over there on the right –>

GOALTENDERS
35 Jimmy Howard (signed through 2013) :: $2.25M
31 Joey MacDonald (signed through 2013) :: $550k

It’s no secret that the Wings will be shopping for another backup goaltender to act as an insurance policy should Joey Mac’s back flair up again during the season. There are three additional goaltenders under contract (McCollum, Pearce, Mrazek), but none of them will be expected to fill that role. If another netminder is inked on Sunday or the days following, Joey MacDonald’s cap hit will likely be removed via waivers and a demotion to Grand Rapids (if he’s not claimed). He’s on a one-way contract for next season, so if he’s demoted, he likely won’t be recalled during the season.

TOTAL COMMITTED TO (2) GOALTENDERS :: $2.8 million, with the potential for $550,000 to come off the books.

DEFENSEMEN
55 Niklas Kronwall (signed through 2019) :: $4.75M
52 Jonathan Ericsson (signed through 2014) :: $3.25M
18 Ian White (signed through 2013) :: $2.875M
4 Jakub Kindl (signed through 2013) :: $883k
2 Brendan Smith (signed through 2013) :: $875k

With the departures of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, the Red Wings have some holes to fill on the blueline. Which is fine, because they have a ton of cash to throw around this summer. It’s impossible to replace Lidstrom, and very difficult to replace Stuart, but they’ll be making a hard push for Nashville’s Ryan Suter.

Recently, the Wings have been carrying 7 defensemen on the NHL roster and stocking Grand Rapids with some ready-to-be-called-upon guys, but in years past, they’ve carried 8. Depending on Jakub Kindl’s future with the team, they may do that again, though I would doubt it would last all the way through pre-season (injuries and playing time, etc).

In addition to the five guys listed above, they have a restricted free agent to deal with in Kyle Quincey. His cap hit was $3.125M last season, and the Wings were not obligated to offer him a raise on a qualifying offer. Of course, Quincey wasn’t obligated to sign that offer, and here we are. Expect him to agree to terms soon and then six of the blueline spots are spoken for.

The rest of the defensemen that are under contract (Brian Lashoff, Adam Almquist, Gleason Fournier, Max Nicastro, and some homeboys that will be returned to juniors) aren’t close to competing for a roster spot on the big club.

TOTAL COMMITTED TO (5) DEFENSEMEN :: $12.63M plus whatever Quincey will command, likely in the $3.5M – 4M range.

FORWARDS
13 Pavel Datsyuk (signed through 2014) :: $6.7M
40 Henrik Zetterberg (signed through 2021) :: $6.083M
93 Johan Franzen (signed through 2020) :: $3.955M
51 Valtteri Filppula (signed through 2013) :: $3M
11 Dan Cleary (signed through 2013) :: $2.8M
43 Darren Helm (signed through 2016) :: $2.125M
44 Todd Bertuzzi (signed through 2014) :: $2.075M
17 Patrick Eaves (signed through 2014) :: $1.2M
20 Drew Miller (signed through 2013) :: $837k
14 Gustav Nyquist (signed through 2013) :: $762k
39 Jan Mursak (signed through 2013) :: $550k
48 Cory Emmerton (signed through 2014) :: $533k

That’s 12 guys signed, and the team will likely carry 14. That leaves (lemme get my abacus) two spots to be filled. It’s no guarantee, however, that the players listed above all make it to the NHL roster for the regular season. Patrick Eaves missed most of last season, but — hopefully — is well enough to continue his career. Gustav Nyquist — even though he absolutely, positively should be on the roster — doesn’t have to clear waivers to be sent back down to Grand Rapids. Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton may or may not have done enough to secure their place on this team.

Making matters a little stickier is Justin Abdelkader. He, like Quincey, is a restricted free agent. The Red Wings were obligated to offer him a 5% raise on his salary from last season, but that number ($880k-ish) won’t be acceptable for someone who contributes on a daily basis. He’ll likely be seeking somewhere in the $1.2 – $1.5M range. If he and the team can’t come to an agreement, he would be free to sign an offer sheet from another club (as would Kyle Quincey). The Wings would then have the opportunity to match that offer or accept draft pick compensation from the other team.

In addition, the Red Wings have agreed to terms with Swiss superstar Damien Brunner, who Mike Babcock believes will step right in on the Wings Top Six. He hasn’t officially been signed yet (he can’t sign until July 1st), but expect to hear about that right around noon. There are other players under contract (Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Landon Ferraro, Calle Jarnkrok, Teemu Pulkkinen) who are very likely not in the running for a roster spot — or are staying in Europe for another season.

TOTAL COMMITTED TO (12) FORWARDS :: $30.62M plus Brunner and Abdelkader, assuming the former stays on the NHL roster, and potentially subtracting some of the existing cap hits.

NUMBERS
So with 19 players (against the 23-player limit) already under contract, the Detroit Red Wings have committed just over $46M to the 2012-13 payroll. With the salary cap set at $70.2M, the Red Wings have the following figure with which to work on Sunday, July 1st:

$24,145,456

Again, that number could increase (if the team decides that Mursak, for example, is expendable) or decrease (if Kyle Quincey or Justin Abdelkader are signed today), but that’s a ton of cash to fill what boils down to four bodies.

Here’s The Plan…

With 18 hours to go before the Detroit Red Wings change the course of a franchise that needs some new direction, there’s only one thing to do.

Drink.

No seriously, start drinking. It’s the only way you’ll get through a night with whoever you decide to hang out with without completely pissing them off. Dinner with the wife/husband? I guarantee they’ll call you out for staring wistfully at that 20 ounce margarita on the menu. First date? They’ll send you packing because it’s really “weird” how often you mention the number 9.

So do yourself a favor. Crack open a can of something good. Pop the cork on the nicest bottle of wine you’ve got. Pour yourself a tall one and let the nerves melt away. Me? 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. It’s a gorgeous summer day here in San Francisco, so why not drink something light and refreshing, but still manly enough to feel like I could pick up the Brinks truck that the Wings should be backing up to Parise and Suter’s front doors.

And if the night goes well, maybe I’ll find myself in a perfectly tailored suit (who knows why, but hey, does it really matter?), knocking back a Woodford Old Fashioned and puffing on a Lucky Strike.

The OTHER "Drapes"

Here’s the key: I’ll have enough social lubricant coursing through my veins to completely forget about my concerns on the eve of one of the most important days in Red Wings hockey history. That is until I see my buddy Zach, who then introduces me to his friend Ryan.

Garcon, bring me another.

Tomorrow’s gunna be a fucking crazy one. Don’t worry though: we got this.

*Disclaimer: If you’re going to drink away your worries, don’t fucking drive. Also, drink some water and some Gatorade before bed. Gotta be up in time for the TPL Live Free Agent Chat.

2012 TPL Free Agent Day Live Chat!

If the chat client (which is directly below these few sentences) is slow to load, please re-load TPL. We’re experimenting with a new format. The chat will begin at 11am Eastern as we prepare for the news to start flowing at noon (if we’re lucky).